It was truly an occasion to remember when Fitzroy of Merivale resident, Betty Davies, celebrated her 100th birthday on 8 June.
After a wonderful lunch out with family from the North Island and Tasmania, Betty’s celebrations continued with an afternoon tea in the Fitzroy lounge at 2:30pm, where surrounded by fellow residents and Fitzroy staff, Betty blew out the candles on her birthday cake.
Betty was born in Wairarapa and left school at 13 to help at home. At 18 she left New Zealand to embark on a world tour. She trained as a nurse in Oxford, England, and worked in hospitals in Oxford and Coventry.
But that wasn’t enough for our intrepid Betty. Her thirst for adventure encouraged her to sign up and serve in the British navy, having the time of her life discovering more and more countries around the globe.
Before she joined the navy, Betty met a lovely Welsh gentleman by the name of George, who was an agricultural engineer. Eventually George popped the question and Betty found herself married and experiencing new adventures – but this time on land, including three years in Holland. Betty and George moved back to New Zealand in 1970.
Betty, having moved to Fitzroy of Merivale in 2008, is their longest residing resident. She has been an avid theatre goer and took a great interest in attending lectures in the city. Betty thoroughly enjoyed her day celebrating a well lived life of 100 years.
This Cup Day, folk at Fitzroy of Merivale will dress up, get together for drinks and nibbles in their graceful lounge, and have a sweepstake on the races.
“We make it like home and the focus is on fun,” says co-owner and nurse Vanessa Pirie. The affordable luxury retirement accommodation is unique, with only 29 units. “Because we’re so small, everyone gets to know each other.” Vanessa and husband Daryn have run the McDougall Avenue rest home since early 2016. Daryn sees to the marketing, but on Friday he presents the news, sparking jovial debate and banter – and if time permits, an afternoon outing. Jana, a diversional therapist, coordinates the activities and was recently trained to teach Chair Chi – that’s tai chi for seniors. There is never a dull moment.
Residents can rent a room, purchase under occupational rights agreement, or come for respite care and see how they love it. All charming units have private ensuites leading to the peaceful award-winning gardens and fish pond. The ambience is of yesteryear, evident from the Cecil Wood-designed architecture to the grand piano in the dining room – where the blackboard menu offers two deserts a day. Within walking distance to Merivale Mall, it’s convenient to shop with new-found friends.
Two residents are a spritely 101 and staff stay a long time. And there’s Kizzy, the resident 16-year-old tabby who has her own medication chart.
Wi-Fi is throughout the facility, and families from all over the world can check in and follow on Facebook.
This July the residents of Fitzroy of Merivale are full of festive cheer as well as the delicious traditional luncheon, served at the annual Mid-Winter Christmas celebration. It’s a highly anticipated event on Fitzroy’s entertainment calendar, along with Cup Day, St Patrick’s Day and Valentine’s Day, and the programme of concerts and visiting entertainers throughout the year.
Aside from dining at home, the residents go out regularly to enjoy their lunch at various locations around the city. They might take a trip to a museum or gallery, have afternoon tea, or more informal get-togethers.
A boutique establishment with just 29 rooms, the relatively small size ensures that the rest home is more like a community than anything else. Its history and character are enhanced by the grace of the antiques throughout and views of the traditional-style sunlit garden as you move through the establishment. Once outside, it’s just steps to the shopping and services of Merivale Mall, the city bus and taxi stands for residents who value their independence.
Fitzroy of Merivale is unique, not only in its size and great location – it is one of the few privately owned rest homes left in Christchurch. Its owners for the past two plus years, Vanessa and Daryn Pirie are very hands on at Fitzroy. “Everyone knows each other well and the staff and residents truly care for each other,” Vanessa says.